Mixed Reactions to Obama’s Middle East Speech – by Stephen Lendman
Perhaps one way to view Obama’s speech is saying you can please all the people some of the time, some of them all the time, but not all of them all the time. World reactions were indeed mixed, though policies, not posturing, are key.
Obama’s, in fact, have no ambiguity, including imperial wars and rock-solid support for Israel. However, not everyone believes it, including the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest American one, founded in 1897.
On May 19, its press release headlined, “ZOA: AIPAC Should Rescind Invitation for Obama to Speak,” saying:
ZOA “strongly condemned President Obama’s Mideast speech (favoring) the establishment of a Hamas/Fatah/Iran state on the Auschwitz 1967 indefensible armistice lines. This would almost surely become a Hamas/Iran terror state threatening Israel and further destabilizing the Mideast. President Obama has dealt Israel a severe diplomatic blow, which harms all those who care about peace and fighting terrorism.”
The statement’s bigoted absurdity requires no comment. Its contempt for truth and justice is self-explanatory.
In contrast, the Anti-Defamation League, no paragon of virtue, applauded Obama’s Israeli support, saying:
The ADL “commended (Obama) for his statement of US priorities in the Middle East, his strong affirmation of the deep and ‘unshakeable’ relationship between the United States and Israel, and expressed support for his vision of a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian settlement with strong security provisions for Israel and a non-militarized Palestinian state.”
On May 22, Obama will address AIPAC at its annual Washington conference, affirming America’s commitment to Israel, as will other top US officials. They include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and other congressional members, genuflecting to the Israeli Lobby’s power in their annual pilgrimage to AIPAC.
According to Mondoweiss’ Philip Weiss, “Obama won’t have to write another speech” for their conference, quoting his pledge of allegiance to Israel, saying:
“….(O)ur friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.”
It was enough for J Street, another pro-Israeli organization, to commend Obama’s “important speech today outlining his approach to the changing Middle East and stating that efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution are ‘more urgent than ever.’ “
“We are grateful that (Obama) reiterated….America’s friendship with Israel (and) commitment to (its) security.”
On May 19, Reuters reported other instant reactions to his speech, including:
Cairo University Professor Ezzedin Choukri-Fishere, saying:
“I think this goes substantially beyond what Obama said in his Cairo speech in 2009, where he merely….talked about general principles of a new American policy toward the Arab world.”
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood senior member Essam Al-Erian:
“A disappointing speech. Nothing new. American strategy remains as is. American cover for dictatorial presidents in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain remains as is. American promises are just promises. There is no decisive decision to immediately withdraw from Iraq or Afghanistan. Threatening Iran remains the same.”
Moreover, his June 2009 Cairo speech “evaporated after two weeks. This speech will evaporate in a few minutes. And the message it carries to the nations of this region is basically that: Do not wait to get any support from the White House. Maintain your efforts and achieve your freedom.”
Doha-based Brookings Center research director Shadi Hamid:
Obama tries “to appeal to everyone and ends up disappointing everyone. (He) says US core interests align with Arab hopes. Well, why didn’t they align for five decades?”
Cairo University Professor Hassan Nafaa:
“It was a great speech, very eloquent, full of hope. There was a real commitment to democratic transition in the Arab world.”
West Bank Birzeit University analyst Samir Awad:
“Obama did not come up with any new position. He totally adopted the Israeli position and that is not the role of an honest mediator. I do not think that this speech will bring the sides closer to peace. As a Palestinian, I was expecting more from him.
Council on Foreign Relations member Robert Danin:
“It’s very significant. For the first time, the United States has articulated what the territorial basis for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should be.”
Mixed Media Reaction
London Independent analyst Robert Fisk headlined, “Lots of rhetoric – but very little help,” saying:
“It was the same old story. Palestinians can have a ‘viable’ state, Israel a ‘secure’ one. Israel cannot be de-legitimized. The Palestinians must not attempt to ask the UN for statehood in September. No peace can be imposed on either party….Oh yes, and the Palestinian state must have no weapons to defend itself. So that’s what ‘viable’ means!”
A New York Times editorial headlined, “Peace and Change,” saying:
Promising “strong support to those yearning for freedom, (his) speech on Thursday did not go far enough….The two big questions now are: How quickly will Washington deliver (on promised aid to) Egypt and Tunisia? And how much harder (will Obama) push Israel and the Palestinians to start serious peace negotiations,” no matter that past ones were irrelevant and stillborn, what Times editorials won’t acknowledge.
A Washington Post editorial headlined, “A new Mideast policy,” saying:
“Obama laid out a far-reaching and energetic new approach to the unfolding Arab revolution. (He) unequivocally stated that ‘it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region,’ and to support transitions to democracy….In short, (he) gave coherence, resources and direction to a US Middle East policy that had been confused and underpowered.”
At best, in fact, he offered old wine in new bottles, endorsing imperial dominance, support for Israel, other key regional allies, and lip service only for Palestinians, meaning nothing ahead will change.
Nonetheless, Wall Street Journal writer Laura Meckler headlined, “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel,” saying:
He risks “losing financial support because of concerns about his handling of Israel….complaints (centering) on a perception that (he’s) been too tough on Israel.”
According to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO), the leading Zionist umbrella group:
Possible discontent may affect Obama’s fundraising. “It’s that people hold back. People don’t have the enthusiasm and are not rushing forward (to) be supportive. Much more what you’ll see is (others will) hold back now.”
Notorious bigot Alan Dershowitz’s Jerusalem Post op-ed headlined, “President Obama’s mistake,” saying:
“Without insisting that the Palestinians give up their absurd claim to have millions of supposed refugees ‘return’ to Israel as a matter of right, he insisted that Israel must surrender all of the areas captured in its defensive war of 1967, subject only to land swaps.”
Former Chicago columnist Mike Royko once remarked that “no self-respecting fish would (want to be) wrapped in a Murdoch paper.” He might have added the Jerusalem Post for publishing any Dershowitz op-ed, an earlier article calling him:
— a purveyor of myths, canards, false logic, and hate;
— a misinterpreter of fundamental law standards;
— a believer in unique Jewish suffering, mindless of all others;
— an advocate of torture, targeted assassinations, land theft and dispossessions; and
— a committed Zionist and Israeli apologist, legitimizing its aggression, its worst crimes and abuses, believing that “international law, and those who administer it, must understand that (in times of war) the old rules” don’t apply against “fanatical foes.”
He also defends preemptive wars, no matter how lawless, calling the UN Charter’s 51 (limiting attacks to self-defense) “anachronistic, (a) mid-twentieth century view of international law” inapplicable to today’s threats.
In other words, like other extremist pro-Israeli apologists, on matters affecting Israel, laws don’t applies, threat or no threat.
On May 20, Haaretz headlined, “Obama to aides: Netanyahu will never do what it takes to achieve Mideast peace,” but neither will he or other US officials.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu said “Israel appreciates (Obama’s) commitment to peace,” ahead of his May 20 White House meeting.
After Obama’s speech, President Mahmoud Abbas called for an emergency meeting with other Arab leaders to discuss it. His spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said an official response will come after consultations are completed. Thursday night, Abbas called Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi foreign ministers to discuss Obama’s speech.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said his speech reiterated failed US policies, adding that he “even refuses to denounce the ongoing Israeli occupation, and expressed ongoing support to Israeli crimes.”
Hamas political bureau member Izzat Al Rishiq said Obama demanding Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state shows his clear bias. He also denounced his support for Israeli settlements and backing for delaying discussions on Jerusalem and refugees until final peace talk stages. Palestinians, of course, have heard that excuse since pre-Oslo, knowing by now that tomorrow never comes.
Moreover, a Hamas press release strongly condemned Israel’s announced addition of 1,500 units in Pisgat Zeev and Abu Ghneim (Har Homa) East Jerusalem settlements, saying:
They “escalat(e) Israeli violations and illegal constructions of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem.”
A Final Comment
After 44 years of occupation, every day is Nakba Day for Palestinians, what political posturing won’t change, especially because Washington and Israel won’t tolerate it.
Daily in fact, Palestinians experience reality on the ground, documented in weekly Palestinian Center for Human Rights reports. Its latest May 12 – 18 one covered escalated Israeli West Bank and Gaza attacks:
— killing two Palestinian children;
— wounding 144 others, including 47 children, five women, and four journalists;
— firing on fishermen off Gaza’s coast, no casualties reported;
— arresting 12 peaceful protesters, 15 others in West Bank community incursions, and another four at military checkpoints;
— terrorizing children at the Al-Thawri neighborhood Orphanage School in East Jerusalem;
— allowing settlers to “commit systematic crimes against Palestinians” and their property with impunity; and
— much more in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and besieged Gaza.
Nakba is Palestine’s catastrophe, an ongoing daily disaster under illegal military occupation. Changing reality to hope starts with ending it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.